Dubai: A young Emirati entrepreneur has created a platform where the youth can connect with UAE start-ups and acquire relevant entrepreneurial skills that would help them either to build their own start-ups or jumpstart their careers.
Meet Alia Al Ali, the co-founder of Startlings.
Al Ali told Gulf News her company “is a global ecosystem created to kick-start the start-up and entrepreneurial thinking of the youth. Startlings is a digital platform that brings together established start-ups and students in high school, university and post-university”.
According to Al Ali: “The entire programme, which runs for eight weeks, goes hand in hand with the National Agenda for Entrepreneurship, aimed at establishing the UAE as an entrepreneurial nation by 2031.”
“The National Agenda includes 29 initiatives aimed at enhancing the business environment and entrepreneurial mindset in the UAE and an integrated package of incentives that will enable the country to increase the number of its start-ups to reach one million. This will also serve as an incubator for ten unicorn start-ups, thereby achieving a strong partnership between the public and private sectors.”
Getting a head-start
Al Ali, however, noted: “Industry opportunities and exposure are difficult to obtain for students given largescale competition. In a time like this, a valuable opportunity obviously adds a mile to one’s career prospects.”
Plugging the gap is what motivated Al Ali to create Startlings, which she co-founded with Indian entrepreneur Siby Sudhakaran. Al Ali said it is important for the youth to get a head-start to succeed. She noted the platform serves as a bridge that benefits both the students and start-ups. Students will acquire theoretical and practical experience of the start-up ecosystem, while companies will have a ready pool of talent. Students will also have exciting opportunities and will be able to acquire an entrepreneur’s toolkit.
“Even if the students will not engage in creating their own start-ups, they will already gain hands-on learning and experience opportunity that will add value to their career portfolio,” she added.
Road to entrepreneurship
The programme, which will be handled by local and international industry experts, runs for eight weeks and each week, students will have different modules — starting from learning what is a good business idea to understanding what the customers need.
By second week, students will be taught how to build a business plan and the following week, they will do market research and proof of concept. Technology, prototyping and product development will be learned in the fourth week, while marketing and operations will be taught in the fifth week.
Students will also learn some legal aspects, basic accounting, human resources and payroll management. Valuation method or the process of determining the present value of a company or an asset and fundraising will be taught in the seventh week, while pitching to investors will be the final module in the eighth week.
The best part is that the top three ideas at the end of the programme will get a funding of up to Dh10,000 each.
Al Ali, who holds a Bachelor's Degree (with honours) in International Relations from University of Sharjah and is currently a student of Masters of Strategic Leadership at Abu Dhabi University, said the core objective is to get students “exposed to exciting opportunities with UAE start-ups”. She explained: “We want them to receive key insights from industry experts on topics that are a must for entrepreneurs. They will also receive a completion certificate that will help them in their career,” she added.
Al Ali, who currently works as a strategic analyst with an international bank and is the president of a corporate youth council, said one would also be open to learning. “In a way, they should be forever a student — meaning, always eager to learn. They must invest their time and energy to learn skills that are the only powerful assets one can have,” she added.
Startlings is registered with Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus (DTEC) and the programme is attested by Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA). The programme runs for eight weeks and the summer cohort starts on July 22. There is also a school time schedule that will begin on September 22.
The programme is divided into two categories — one with a start-up work opportunity, which is open to students 15 years and above. The other is without start-up work opportunity, which is open to learners ten years old onwards.